Even if you can’t spend as much time with your children as you would like, you can still make a big impact on their day if you pack them a healthy sack lunch. After hours of learning and activities at daycare, they’ll need some nutritious fuel to keep them happy and energized for the rest of the day.
Healthy food gives children an emotional, mental, and physical boost while they learn and play, so if you give your child a nutritious lunch, you’ll ensure success as he or she goes through the daycare curriculum.
But how do you know when you’ve made a healthy lunch? Which foods should be included? Read on to find out.
How to Make a Healthy Lunch
If you want to give your children the nutrients they need, make sure you include the following in their lunches:
- 1 serving of whole grains. Whole grains help children regulate their metabolism, boost heart health, and build strong bones.
- 1 serving of fresh fruits. Fresh fruits help the body fight toxins. They carry a high concentration of vitamins, so they boost the immune system, strengthen cells, and help regulate digestion. Your children won’t only stay healthier now—fruits strengthen their bodies against future conditions like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
- 1 serving of fresh vegetables. Vegetables have many of the same benefits as fruits, so they boost health immediately, and they also prevent future health problems.
- 1 serving of dairy. You probably already know that dairy helps children build strong bones. However, dairy also regulates blood pressure and helps the body absorb other necessary nutrients, like iron.
- 1 serving of protein. Protein helps children build healthy bones, cartilage, muscles, and skin. It also helps them create healthy blood cells, hormones, and enzymes. The zinc in many protein foods also boost the immune system.
- A drink. Your children also need a way to stay hydrated. Water works best, but your children can also drink juice (preferably 100% juice) or milk.
Remember to avoid processed or canned foods as much as possible, and try not to put cookies, chips, soda, or any other junk food into sack lunches. You should also choose low fat options where they exist—these foods give your children the nutrients they need without adding unnecessary amounts of fat or cholesterol.
Ideas for Sack Lunches
When you make a sack lunch, make it out of foods that can sit unrefrigerated for several hours. Even if the daycare facility has a refrigerator, your children may forget to store their lunches there. Put icepacks in their lunchboxes for extra safety.
You should also try to vary sack lunches so your children eat something new and interesting every day. If you don’t know where to start, use the list of lunches below as inspiration.
Make a light burrito with black or white beans, chicken, whole grain rice, and mashed up avocados. If you want to seal the burrito to minimize messes, fold its ends over and put it on a Panini maker. The Panini maker will cook the burrito without frying it.
Combine cold, whole grain pasta with lots of vegetables, low-fat cheese, and chicken to create a simple but heart-healthy lunch. You can make a light, yummy sauce with some olive oil and a little salt and pepper.
Peanut Butter Dip
Children love the traditional PB&J, but they’ll feel healthier (and have a lot of fun eating) if they eat their peanut butter this way. Simply spoon some peanut butter into a container, and pack raw vegetable sticks and crackers along with it.
When all else fails, you can always fall back on sandwiches. Make sure you vary the types of sandwiches you pack though. If you pack a turkey and Havarti sandwich one day, switch things up with lettuce, tomatoes, and chicken the next day.
Younger children also love it when their sandwiches come in interesting shapes, like triangles or stars. These smaller pieces fit in their mouths better, and they add a little variety to a lunch staple.
Children love snacks. Why not give them a whole bunch of snacks as a meal? Pack strips of fruits and vegetables, including bell peppers, cucumbers, celery, carrots, apples, mangoes, and pineapples. Add crackers and cheese slices to create a square meal.
Put meat, cheese, tomatoes, and a leafy green on a tortilla and roll it up like a burrito. You can also put peanut butter and bananas on a wrap. If you want to seal the ends of your wrap, fold them over and cook the wrap on a Panini maker.
Give your child an emotional, mental, and physical boost with a healthy lunch. As long as they get the nutrients they need, they won’t have problem with learning or playtime activities at daycare.